In 2001, a small group of educational choice proponents met with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office to celebrate the 10th anniversary of charter school legislation. Among them was Indiana State Senator Teresa Lubbers–a parent, former teacher, and advocate for providing parents with more and better educational options.
“Those options should not only be available to those who can afford it,” said Lubbers. “Educational choice is the most pressing civil rights issue of this period in our country’s history. It is not an indictment of any particular school or system; it is a recognition that no one school or system is right for everyone. Choice matters.”
While discussing school choice at the White House would top the list of accomplishments for many advocates, Lubbers regards what she achieved on the home front as her greatest contribution.
“For seven years, I worked to pass a charter school law in Indiana and finally in 2001, the General Assembly passed charter school legislation,” she recalled. That victory, which has resulted in the creation of 10 charter schools, was particularly satisfying since she had worked for so long to increase the educational options for parents in Indiana.
Lubbers’ career began in 1973 as a high school English teacher, but she was quickly drawn to the political side of education. She took a position in the office of then Indianapolis Mayor Richard Lugar–now U.S. Senator–and in 1992 initiated her own successful run for political office, concentrating on education and economic development.
Upon election, Lubbers was appointed to serve on the Senate Education Committee, a position she has maintained to the present day. In 1995, she sponsored an unsuccessful school choice bill for parents in the Indianapolis Public Schools system. It was not until the charter school law passed in 2001 that she succeeded in providing real options for parents.
“Aside from faith and family, there is nothing more important in a child’s life than the quality of education he or she receives,” she said. “Providing more options is an important way to ensure a quality education for every child. If we keep our focus on children and improving student learning, the school choice movement will ultimately succeed.”
Since 2001, Lubbers has joined several committees that serve the educational community beyond the state of Indiana, including the Midwestern Higher Education Commission and the Education Commission of the States. She also was appointed vice-chair of the Legislative Interim Study Committee on Education Issues.
Those appointments and the charter school legislation continue to define the Indiana lawmaker’s career and her dedication to school choice. She knows parents need still more options and–even after the 2001 charter school victory–she knows the fight for school choice is far from over.
“We are making progress but much hard work remains,” she said. “Education reform depends on grassroots support from families and communities; legislative action will not lead reform but it will respond when constituents demand it. The key is engaged parents who are making good decisions for their children.”
Robert Fanger is the media relations and communications associate with the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation in Indianapolis, Indiana. His email address is [email protected].